The School Mediator
Peer Mediation Insights From the Desk of Richard Cohen Vol. II 6/03

in this issue

Good News for Funding Peer Mediation

Response to "Model Problems"

Conference Announcements

About Us

Newsletter Archive Available

Access past issues of The School Mediator through the link below.

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The School Mediator's Field Guide:
Prejudice, Sexual Harassment, Large Groups and Other Daily Challenges
by Richard Cohen
more info

Students Resolving Conflict:
Peer Mediation in Schools

by Richard Cohen
more info

Welcome to the June issue of The School Mediator.

In this month's issue, our last for the 2002-2003 year, we share some good news regarding funding peer mediation. The next issue you receive will be in September.

I have appreciated all of the insightful responses and positive feedback that I have received from you this year.

Have a wonderful Summer,

Richard Cohen
Founder and Director
School Mediation Associates

PS: If you received this free newsletter directly from us, you are already on our subscriber list. If a colleague forwarded it to you, you can easily subscribe by sending your email address to

In last month's issue we included a link to School Mediation Associates' 5 stage mediation model (and the pictures we use to illustrate it). Technical problems prevented many of you from accessing this information. We provide here a new link to the model with our apologies. Also, belated thanks to Danielle Catalano, art teacher (and mediator) at Stoneham High School, Stoneham MA, USA, for creating the wonderful drawings.

 Good News for Funding Peer Mediation

These are gloomy times for many US schools. A sour economy and a standards-oriented government have led to budget cuts, program terminations, stifled creativity, and teacher layoffs. (An example close to home: my son's wonderful Kindergarten teacher may not be rehired next year.)

The general bad news certainly affects our focus: school-based mediation. Many educators, already under stress, don't feel they have the time, energy or money to devote to "extras" like peer mediation.

So it is a delight to be able to share one bit of good news concerning peer mediation in the United States.

Peer mediation is now considered a strategy that has proven to be effective by those who administer the Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities Grant funding (SDFS) monies which subsidize efforts to reduce and/or eliminate student violence and substance abuse.

Peer mediation's status is relatively unique. The guidelines outlining how schools can spend SDFS funds have only become more restrictive of late. Every strategy for which educators request these funds must now be "research-based"--i.e., credible research must clearly indicate the strategy's efficacy.*

Because peer mediation is considered a strategy that has proven to be effective, however, no similar demonstration of its efficacy is required. The SDFS administrators' operating assumption appears to be that peer mediation is efficacious.

In addition, peer mediation efforts need not be linked to a particular curriculum or service provider. School systems in Nome don't have to fly mediation trainers in from Baton Rouge; they can utilize competent providers local to them. (Although in these tough economic times, unfortunately there are fewer providers than there used to be.)

What is required to receive SDFS funds, and appropriately so, is that school systems must apply the so-called "Principles of Effectiveness." These include:
--performing a genuine assessment of their systems' needs
--gathering and analyzing quantitative data to describe the situation
--articulating specific measurable objectives for their grant program
--selecting strategies to help attain those objectives, and
--evaluating the outcomes of their efforts in quantitative terms.

But what does all this mean for peer mediation? Most obviously, it means that if your school has demonstrable needs that a peer mediation program can address, funds will be more readily available to underwrite the costs of implementing and maintaining it. For public school educators who have been considering starting a peer mediation effort (or who need to reinvigorate a existing program): the 2003-2004 school year might well be the time to ask for--and receive--the resources you need!

(It is important to note that applying for SDFS money is not a competitive process. As a so-called "entitlement," your school system is guaranteed to receive the funds if it fulfills the requirements of the application process. The amount you receive is based upon a formula that considers the overall number of students in your district as well as the number of students living in poverty.)

SDFS's apparent acceptance of peer mediation's effectiveness is noteworthy for another reason.

The dream has always been that peer mediation and conflict resolution become a standard part of young peoples' experience in school. Just as every school has a guidance counselor, every school should have an adult responsible for the conflict resolution/mediation function.

This implicit acceptance of peer mediation by the Federal educational establishment--and a rather conservative one at that--is very possibly a watershed. Sure, we are still quite far from having a peak-performing peer mediation program in every school, but we may now be one step closer to realizing that dream.

If you are interested in pursuing Safe and Drug Free Schools funds:

1. Find out whether your school system is applying for the SDFS funding. If they are not, encourage them to do so. (With all the recent layoffs, some systems do not have anyone to write the grant.)

2. If there is someone within your system who will write the SDFS application, and if peer mediation is a strategy that could genuinely help meet your system's objectives, express your interest in including peer mediation in the application.

3. Direct additional questions to your local Department of Education.

*Though I am very happy that peer mediation has met the "research-based" standard, I nevertheless have reservations about its use. Certainly I understand the impulse behind it: no one wants their tax dollars spent on ineffective programming. But as the standard is applied, it means that primarily large, well-established organizations (who can raise the money to conduct expensive research) will be able to receive SDFS funding. Smaller organizations and individuals, and cutting edge programming, will be left out in the cold. There are risks either way, but I would rather err on the side of enabling educators to decide for themselves what works in their own community.

Send us your thoughts...


 Response to "Model Problems"

Only two responses to last month's issue, which called into question some popular peer mediation models. I had hoped to inspire some folks who use those models to respond and explain the reasoning behind them. No such luck. Now that my intentions are explicit, perhaps one of you brave souls will do so.

Hi Richard. I appreciate all of your newsletters, but wanted to say I thought the article on models was particularly insightful--and horrifying--as I learned what goes on in some places as mediation! Thank you.

Sally Ganong Pope, Executive Director
Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation, Inc.
Hempstead, NY USA

I totally agree with what you are saying. I believe that each person is different in the way that they train students, and there is no best way. But I do feel that some models shouldn't be used, and I share your concerns.

Thank you,

Monique Clark, Mediation Coordinator
Fresno, CA USA

 Conference Announcements
We received requests to inform readers about two upcoming conferences:

11th Annual Center for Peaceable Schools Summer Institute
Organized by Lesley College's Center for Peaceable Schools
July 7 - 11, 2003
Cambridge Massachusetts

Conflict Resolution in Schools: Learning to Live Together
Organized by The European Centre for Conflict Prevention (ECCP), in co-operation with the Netherlands Commission for UNESCO and others
September 15 and 16, 2003
The Netherlands
(Richard Cohen will co-facilitate one of the working groups at this conference.)


 About Us
For almost twenty years, School Mediation Associates has been devoted to the application and promotion of mediation in schools. SMA's mission is to transform schools into safer, more caring, and more effective institutions. Our books and training programs have been utilized by tens of thousands of people around the world.

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Post us: 134w Standish Road,
Watertown, MA 02472 USA

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